The Maynard
October 2013

Sarah Roebuck

My son watching me smoke

Cigarettes — prosaic as loose change in a pocket.
Common as the trash the teenager's throw
in the playground sandbox.
My brain knocks on a door and I open it.
I enter a trance.
A demon's hand, bony, black and long
reaches into the back pocket of my jeans
gropes the curves of my ass with a full palm,
pulls out the packet, plucks out a fag.
The scaly hand searches me again
this time for a matchbook, clutches one,
tugs out a match and starts a small fire.
Somewhere far away, the smell of sulphur.
The thin hungry fingers stroke my lips until they spread apart;
my muscles slacken, my eyes close themselves
and my mouth sucks, indulgent, at what burns at its edge.
Someone knocks on a door. My mind answers it.
My son, not climbing the jungle gym,
not swinging on the swings, not sliding down the slides,
but bouncing on the see-saw, by himself, watching me.

At two and a half, he can open a door
and out fall all the items in the world that have a word.
In the playroom of his small life, he carefully organises
some of the new items with the old, along with their words,
then closes the door behind him to refer to them later.
I consider him from the picnic table,
he considers me from the see-saw,
but we do not meet each other as whole people;
he points to my slender hand with a chubby baby finger,
his pink mouth opens and the word finally comes out:
"Mamma, is that called smoking?"